Slice of Mughal history on sale at Sotheby's

Last Updated: Sun, Oct 30, 2011 13:50 hrs

New Delhi, Oct 30 (IANS) A large painting of Delhi's Moti Masjid that will lead the auction of important Russian works by Sotheby's in New York Tuesday is regarded as the best of Russian artist Vasili Vasilievich Vereshchangin's India series in the 19th century.

Measuring 13 ft X 16 ft, the painting of the Pearl Mosque has been donated by the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, for sale, along with seven other works.

The mosque was painted by Vereshchangin in late 19th century, the auction house said in a statement from New York.

The work - one of the artist's largest works - is estimated at $3-5 million and it has been on display at Sotheby's York Avenue Gallery since Sept 28, it added.

The painting of the Pearl Mosque is part of Vereshchagin's 'Indian series' which he painted after a two-year visit to India.

The series features numerous depictions of architectural monuments, all of which he realistically captured with painstaking attention to detail, the statement said.

Vereshchagin's progress on Pearl Mosque at Delhi was interrupted by the outbreak of the Balkan War in 1877, during which the artist set aside his work and served as a volunteer with the Russian Imperial Army.

He returned to the canvas in 1878, and finished the masterwork the following year, it added.

'By the mid-1880s, Vereshchagin found himself in financial need, and decided to try selling his works...,' the statement said.

He went to New York for the first time in September 1888 for his show at the American Art Association.

The exhibition was a success, and proved so profitable that it was turned into a travelling exhibition. The Pearl Mosque at Delhi was purchased for $2,100 by philanthropist Roland C. Lincoln of Boston, Massachusetts. Lincoln donated the work to the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston the following year.

'...the Pearl Mosque represents pure painterly perfection. For an artist made famous by his provocative images of war, the work showcases Vereshchagin's supreme versatility, and underscores his position as one of the leading visual historians of the 19th century,' Sonya Bekkerman, head of Sotheby's Russian Paintings department, said in New York.

The Pearl Mosque, located inside the Red Fort in the capital, is known to have been built by Aurangzeb in 1660-1670 for his personal use. The mosque was used by the women of the seraglio and is no longer open to public.

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